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Covid-19 incidence down but people need to stay vigilant – public health chief

The number of deaths from coronavirus are expected to rise in the coming weeks.

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Professor Philip Nolan warned the public to stay vigilant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Philip Nolan warned the public to stay vigilant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Philip Nolan warned the public to stay vigilant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Transmission of Covid-19 has been suppressed in the last week but the public should not relax in the fight against coronavirus, public health chiefs have said.

The seven-day incidence rate of Covid-19 has dropped by 30%, from an average of 1,200 cases per day to 836.

However, deaths are expected to rise in the coming weeks as they typically lag behind the number of reported cases – with close to 100 deaths in October.

Speaking at an NPHET briefing on Friday, Dr Philip Nolan urged the public to maintain their efforts in the battle against the virus.

This is not the time to relax. This virus will seek out any opportunity we give it to transmit, so let's not give it that opportunityDr Philp Nolan

He said: “This is the first time in three months that I’ve been able to report positive indications that we are starting to suppress transmission of the virus.

“We are looking with some considerable anxiety but also empathy and fellow feeling at the situation across Europe, it’s clear that that position is fragile.

“Our own experience and the experience across Europe shows that when we achieve this sort of suppression, the important thing is to make it last.

“We should take encouragement from the data that our efforts are starting to work. But please take it as a signal to maintain those efforts.

“This is not the time to relax. This virus will seek out any opportunity we give it to transmit, so let’s not give it that opportunity.”

The briefing heard there was no clear indication of what had caused the decrease, coming too late to be attributed to the introduction of level three restrictions, but too early for the effects of level five.

A combination of anticipatory behaviour on behalf of the public, the ban on household visits and the increased lockdown measures are likely contributory factors.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the public was often altering its behaviour ahead of public health advice.

When cases are increasing, people cut down on their social contacts prior to new measures being introduced.

Dr Holohan said this can “cut both ways” as people tend to socialise more when figures are on the way down.

He urged people “not to get ahead of where we are at”, particularly when it comes to planning for Christmas or other social occasions.

It was also warned it will take time for the mortality rate to decrease in line with the number of transmissions.

Dr Nolan said: “We are seeing at he moment close to 100 deaths in the month of October.

“We have to remember that those are related, in the main, to cases that occurred in September. So it will take some time for mortality to decrease.”

The situation in Ireland appears to be much better than in much of Europe.

Dr Desmond Hickey said: “In only four European countries was there a negative percentage change in the seven-day incidence rate recorded and Ireland was one of those countries, with a 30% decrease in the seven-day incidence in the week up to 30th of October compared to the previous seven days.”

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health during a briefing at the Department of Health in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health during a briefing at the Department of Health in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health during a briefing at the Department of Health in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Friday saw six further deaths related to Covid-19 in Ireland and an additional 772 cases.

The number of people in intensive care units on Friday was 42, down one on the previous day.

It brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland to 1,908. There is now a total of 61,059 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland.

Dr Holohan said: “The overall situation has improved but we have to remember that these are very early days. This improvement will only be maintained if we keep going in our efforts.

“We have to remember that incidence is increasing in older age groups, who are particularly vulnerable to this disease. The way in which we can protect them is if we continue to drive down transmission across the whole population.”

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